Writing for pleasure to showcase the best Australia has on offer.
Published May 2nd 2014
Get married in the Chapel of an ex Convent
Easter Weekend – four days off, mother coming down, where to go? She said, "Surprise me." So I did.
Just under two hours by car along the Cunningham Highway you will find the inland city of Warwick, which was originally to be named Cannington.
An article in the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin on 3 September 1938 states that brothers Patrick and George Leslie and two other men left Sydney in search for land along the Clarence River but could not find a road to that district. After two days of trying they decided to head north into the Moreton Bay settlement region. A station was established at Canning Downs and in 1847 the NSW government asked Patrick Leslie to lay out the town of Warwick after selecting a site. When the land was put up for auction, Leslie purchased the first block of land sold in Warwick.
[ADVERT]Warwick and the surrounding Darling Downs has a strong agriculture industry and, only 130 kilometres south/west of Brisbane, Warwick is the administrative centre for the Southern Downs local government.
Our first stop was to the Warwick Information Centre to pick up brochures of what there is to do and see around Warwick. These centres are manned mostly by volunteers who have a wealth of knowledge of their area and are passionate to share what they know.
We decided lunch at the RSL was the best option and both chose the mixed grill complete with poached egg and lots of bacon. It was really far too big for lunch, however we accomplished the task.
After lunch we visited Pringle Cottage Museum in Dragon Street. It is a step back in time as you wander through the rooms and remember items of interest from younger years. Volunteers provide an interesting commentary as you walk through each room of the two-stored building. Pringle Cottage built around 1870 by John McCullough and is now listed by the National Trust for its historical significance. It houses a priceless collection of furniture, household items and machinery representing more than 130 years of family life in the district. There are other buildings on the site which are open for the public to view. These include the Shepherd's Hut, Old Canning Cottage, The Emporium, L.B. Eastwell Hall and Newspaper Printery.
The building once operated as a private school, known as Milton College, run by Mrs Pringle from 1898 to 1908. The name Pringle Cottage was given by the Warwick and District Historical Society to recognise the era of Mrs Pringle and to identify the building.
For those who love visiting markets, the Warwick Charity Markets are held on the first Sunday of the month at the Warwick Town Hall Carpark from 8am till Noon.
I have always been fascinated by the enormous castle-like building in Warwick named Abbey of the Roses B&B and wondered about its history.
In 1891 the foundation stone for the Sisters of Mercy Convent in Locke Street was laid and an amazing building was constructed. Formerly Our Lady of Assumption Convent, this grand building was completed in 1893 from Freestone. The current building was built in three stages and many girls were educated in the 3R's by the Nuns over nearly 100 years.
Nearing its centenary and its last days as a Convent, the building had a living space of 1486 square metres, including fine reception rooms, library, and dormitories, imposing halls, chapel with beautiful stained glass, attic and myriad of nuns' cells. Unfortunately, due to continual and expensive repair, the Order had no choice but to sell and in 1994 a private family purchased the building from Sophia College Trust, who had operated a residential university college from the site for the previous four years. A new chapter began in its history.
The building features a magnificent Chapel and substantial 'public rooms' which led the new proprietors to consider operating a Function and Reception Centre, with long term plans for a Guest House. Thus it became the Abbey of the Roses and its goal was to become the Premier Guest House and Function Centre on the Southern Downs.
Whilst renovating the Chapel, an original frieze was found under a layer of paint and plaster. A tracing of the frieze was taken and a stencil was cut so the frieze could be reinstated. Stained glass of unique quality brings rays of sunlight through the Chapel's windows and a grand piano is positioned proudly at the back of the room.
Current owners, Mark and Sonia, ooze with pride and passion as the restoration story continues with their own added touches of hospitality to guests making each one feel very welcome. At night a complimentary glass of sherry or port is available in the sitting room prior to your retirement.
In 2011 the Abbey was honoured to be nominated a finalist in the Qld ABIA Awards for Best Reception Venue and also the Queensland Tourism Award and being voted #1 of the Top Ten Places to tie the Knot in Queensland.
Currently there are 11 rooms available for accommodation, which are situated on the second floor equipped with either ensuite, shared or private bathrooms. For those not travelling as a couple, one twin-room is available. The beds are extremely comfy with warm doonas and electric blankets being provided for those cold winter nights when temperatures can get down to -10º. Sitting rooms downstairs are equipped with large working fire places which keep you warm in winter.
A communal kitchenette is provided upstairs for guests to make a cup of coffee or tea and French doors open out on wide verandahs.
Requested dinner seating arrangements can be catered, and for those wanting a romantic dinner room for two, or maybe to pop that all important question, Mark and Sonia are happy to serve you dinner in a special smaller room just for two. Larger guest parties can be served in yet another private dining room and the function room can cater for 80 to 120 guests. A nice sized polished dance floor is situated at one end of this room.
Devonshire morning teas are scheduled on certain Sundays during the year and these are served in the large function room as well. After morning tea, a tour of the Abbey is provided by Mark who is very knowledgeable on its history. Prices and available dates can be found on their website. Christmas in July and Murder Mystery nights are also available.
The Abbey is also a great place to stay as a base for travelling around the surrounding area. Other couples we met staying at the Abbey had spent the day visiting wineries in the area.
The room that fascinated me the most was The Shroud Room where the nuns would sit and sew shrouds for the deceased. Many a night the Priest would arrive either with a body for the shroud to be made and placed on the face or for collecting shrouds for the number of persons who had died that night. I could certainly visualise this happening as I stood in that room.
The main staircase only used by the Nuns when the building was a convent
There is an abundance of eating establishments in Warwick as well. We noted eight small restaurants documented in a brochure and that was without counting the local hotels and the RSL.
So, put Warwick down on your list of cities to visit in SE Queensland or your next short journey away from the city as it is well worth the drive. Queensland, although a vast State, has many places like Warwick waiting to be discovered.